I don’t usually touch the South Bay. Yeah, I’ve said it. It’s tough to find occasion when there’s so much to explore north of LAX. I may have found that occasion now.
Ortega 120, located in Redondo Beach, is a good reason to visit. Maya of ShopEatsleep and I attended a tasting there and every corner I turned, I found a fresh, unique perspective in each bite. Their margaritas were some of the best Iâ€™ve ever tasted thanks to real juices and Partida tequila; each bite tasted a little bit like home. (I am not Mexican.)
Iâ€™ll say this off the bat: Ortega 120 know how to do media dinners. The margaritas, courses, cocktail courses and the like kept coming. Cofounders Demi Stevens and Thomas Ortega were on hand to give our meal a personal feel â€“ and somehow I can believe that theyâ€™re around to do so with all their guests.
We started with a Taco de Atun Crudo (above) which was filled with Ahi Poke yellow fin tuna, roasted corn, mango, cilantro, roasted red peppers, chili oil and chili crema fresca and topped with guacamole. It was an appropriately light starter and I thought the guacamole brought out the flavor in the poke pretty nicely. The taco was paired with the a pomegranate ginger margarita â€“ and although we all had at least a full glass of the house margarita still, our apÃ©ritif â€“ I honestly think these margaritas could be paired with any dish since they were all so fresh. Only juices, no sweet & sour. No sugar, only agave nectar â€“ which doesnâ€™t give you that wired nor crash & burn feeling like sugar.Â
Â Next we had Snapper Weracruzano (above) which is a pan seared red, topped with onion, tomato, red & yellow peppers, garlic, cilantro and cooked with white wine on a bed of lime-scented rice. Since red snapper is generally a firm fish it was nice to enjoy it with the powerful herbs and spices. And what is white fish without a shot of blanco tequila? Iâ€™m not quite sure but the Partida was a pleasure to sip. On top of that we were given a 1966 Impala Margarita (no, not Cadillac) also made with Partida Blanco. Here, I could really taste the tequila as the only other ingredients are organic agave nector and fresh lime juice. This is how I make all my margaritas at home now â€“ thanks to the take-home gift swag we got to take home complete with simple recipe cards.
The Sope de Carnitas, though, was definitely my favorite little bite. I would order this in passing any day â€“ and every day you can order â€œ3 Before 3 for $10â€ from 11:30am â€“ 3pm. You can also choose from 3 chicken or beef taquitos; 3 short rib, carnitas or pollo tacos; or tortilla soup served with a half torta for $10. If I lived nearby this would be my lunch multiple days of the week! The reposado tequila pairing (aged 2 â€“ 10 mo) was perfect. Aged just a tad and perfect for carnitas.
The real treat was the Chile Braised Shortrib glazed with chipotle Partida agave nectar and paired with sauteed spinach, pozole risotto. Iâ€™m not gonna lie. I love braised shortrib, but it must have been the fact that I sipped it with Partida anejo tequila (aged 18 mo) which helped make the braised flavor taste extra rich and full. The risotto was delicious as well â€“ and by this time I was about to burst so both made a nice little take-away box for lunch the next day.
Once I tasted the cocktail â€œcoursesâ€ that came afterwards I could see why they were in and of themselves stand-alone treats. If you feel â€œpeachy,â€ order the Caipirinha de Fruta. If you like those Trader Joeâ€™s spicy mango slices, order the Espicy Mango. The Horchata Martini features a special â€¦ you guessed it, â€¦ hortchata liqueur if you are in the mood for a liquid cinnamon rice pudding cocktail. The churros for dessert, however, were heavenly. Of course, theyâ€™re fresh â€“ made in-house â€“ but Â also sitting in a pool of chocolate sauce a la mode with vanilla bean ice cream.
To end, we enjoyed the very exclusive, 39-month aged Partida Elegante of which they only produce 1500 bottles per year. Because at 40 months, the tequila is too woodsy. Indeed it was so smooth and so full â€“ it was a tequila I could easily get used to.
Any timeÂ you have occasion to be in the South Bay, I would make it a point to visit Ortega 120 to get my food and drink on. Their quality is unsurpassed and surprisingly it’s a nice little gem to visit south of LAX.
If you want to learn more about tequila, Ortega 120 is running a Tequila University. Yes, youâ€™ve heard right. Itâ€™s a two-class experience and there are two more sessions this summer: July 7th & 21st and August 11th & 25th. Itâ€™s only $20 and includes tequila flight, margaritas and light appetizers to weigh down all the delicious agave youâ€™ll be drinking. Call 310.762.4120 to enroll.
1814 S. Pacific Coast Highway
Redondo Beach, CA 90277